Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day #2: Energy & Oil

Ok, so we mentioned that energy concerns, especially peak oil, are very important topics right now.  A fellow blogger, John L. Clark, has written an interesting piece that explains some of the interdependence of oil, population and consumption, and also has some ideas about what the average citizen can do to address these concerns.   

There's also a book that I'd like to recommend that gives a very good overview about sustainable energy.  It's called Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air, by David MacKay.  I really like this, because it's got a lot of good information.  I'd recommend starting with the 10 page (pdf download) summary  and then go on to the main book, found here.

Don't be thrown off by the website. It's useful, because it helps the online reader navigate sections of the book, which doesn't have to be read sequentially. I'd recommend starting at Chapter 23, "Sustainable Fossil Fuels" because it talks about coal, which is the next consideration after oil.  Also, a Gt is a gigaton (2 billion pounds, or the curb weight of about 400,000 Hummers.)

Windmill, courtesy of Storm Crypt

Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Day!

April 22, 2010 is Earth Day, and in honor of that, we're going to have some posts about the environment.  This is more of the application and effects of science rather than the research, so hopefully it will be a fun series. 

First, there's the history of Earth Day.  This was started about 40 years ago by Gaylord Nelson, a Senator from Wisconsin who wanted to call attention to environmental issues.  He believed that grass-roots activities like the ones used by Vietnam protesters provided excellent models that he could use. So in the fall of 1969 he announced that there would be a grass-roots demonstration in the upcoming spring.  During the winter, people called, wrote and sent telegrams about their concerns.  (Yes, the telegram, and no snickering. The world wide web was just California and Utah in '69, and email wasn't going to show up for another 2 years.)  It was a big success: the first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970, and was celebrated by about 20 million people in the US.

How do we use the Earth?